By: Addison Wylie
Everyone has their own guilty pleasures when it comes to movies. I’m just glad mine also looks pretty and has a great soundtrack.
I feel bad calling Dredd 3D a guilty pleasure because I don’t feel guilty for liking it. I liked it a lot, in fact.
My affection for Pete Travis’ revamping of Judge Dredd isn’t solely rooted in its visuals – although they certainly are a strong point. Same goes for its industrial score with a slight dosage of dubstep.
Alex Garland’s script is set in a sorry-looking future where civilians violently fend for themselves and crime and corruption run rampid. The largest threat is the trafficking and usage of a dangerous drug called Slo-Mo, a concoction that, when huffed, slows down reality to an extreme.
When characters purposely, or sometimes forcibly and accidentally, smoke the wild drug, the film turns into surrealistic art. There’s a term I never thought I would be using in a Karl Urban-helmed balls-to-the-walls action caper.
When a film is using 3D technology and that format is being put to good use in talented hands, the results can be astonishing. It’s nice to know that a 3D crew knows what they’re doing and knows what is going to look “cool”.
Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, who contributed eye-popping work in Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, and the abstract Dogme 95 film titled Julien Donkey-Boy, has upped the ante here with incredible camerawork that utilizes slow-motion to the fullest. He, along with director Travis and a team of special effects artists, make exploding body parts gruesome and dreamy in taught action sequences. The team also makes everyday activities, like taking a bath, into therapeutic and hypnotic scenes that will have eyes glued at all times.
That said, the story isn’t exactly deep and sounds like Garland may have read the same sheet music as this year’s earlier action flick The Raid: Redemption. I haven’t seen The Raid yet but I have seen a lot of previews, and a lot of images and motives ring true about both projects. For example, in both films, the good guys must fight their way through a complex to find the ultimate baddie.
I don’t think either party is ripping off anyone else. I believe it’s just poor timing. It’s the ’98 Armageddon/Deep Impact dilemma all over again. But, I suppose that happens.
I can see people being turned off by the film. Dredd, played by Urban, is never seen without his helmet, meaning we only see the bottom half of his face. It’s a tough gig for Urban who essentially has to win movie goers over by his line delivery. He has to hope that Garland wrote some great bits of dialogue for him. Luckily, both Garland and Urban succeed in getting us to pay attention and root for Dredd.
We also get some nice Training Day-esque moments between Urban’s Dredd and his Judge apprentice Anderson, played by Olivia Thirlby. The camaraderie between Dredd and the rookie follows familiar cliches but both performances are memorable outside the snappy lines and the routine character development. It’s exactly what the cast of 2012’s embarrassing Lockout should’ve been doing instead of chewing scenery.
The part that is going to bother people is the emotionless approach the film has. The train of thought of not caring about a single civilian.
In a big action sequence, a mob boss named Ma-Ma (played by Lena Headey) fires off a turret gun, along with other baddies, at Dredd from across the apartment complex. Many people just minding their own business are blown to bits.
Earlier in the film, as a car driven by gang members swerves all over the street, they needlessly take out a walking bystander with bloody results.
With these scenarios and others, the film moves on. Besides the run-over civilian which catches Dredd’s attention, these kills against innocent people aren’t directly recognized.
However, Travis isn’t doing this to make his film take on a bad-ass quality. He’s doing it to highlight just how careless this futuristic world has become. Even Dredd, who never breaks into a grimace, keeps a straight face the entire time awful things are going on around him.
In any other case, this type of filmmaking would be despicable and possibly offensive but because I believe Travis is doing this intentionally to make a statement about how distressing this environment has become, it gets a pass. Dredd 3D can be enjoyed enormously if you leave your emotions and part of your brain in the lobby.
Now, even though I think Dredd 3D is one of this year’s best action flicks, do I want every film to follow in its footsteps? Absolutely not. It’s good that this film can show movie goers what films like Lockout should have been like, but if every action film became what Dredd 3D is, we’d have loads of gritty flicks that would become too much like each other and, therefore, lack any sort of intelligence.
It’s nice for a ballsy and competent film like Dredd 3D to come along every so often so that avid action fans can have mindless fun at the cinema. Now that we’ve gotten it all out of our systems in a flashy and attractive manner, we can be patient for a few months for the next mindless outing.